California 101 Golf Trail
California is a playground for anyone who loves the outdoors. From hiking and fishing, to surfing and camping, it would take 100 lifetimes to explore every nook and cranny of the Golden State. When you factor in the more than 900 golf courses (as estimated by Southern California PGA), California is a golfer’s dream come true.
From the rolling hills and mountain views, to the cliffs and ocean vistas, there’s no shortage of fairways and greens for every level of linksman seeking to find some new swinging grounds. All of these courses offer golf instruction, rentals, and dining that can cater to any group or individual’s specific needs. Let’s take a look at a few courses in Ventura County.
Elkins Ranch Golf Course Fillmore
Surrounded by mountains and orange orchards, Elkins Ranch offers golfers a chance to get out of the city and into a more natural setting. There isn’t a hole on the course that doesn’t have a sweeping mountain view, and with several drastic elevation changes, there is no shortage of vantage points to take in those vistas.
From the 16th green and the elevated 17th tee, you can look out over the Santa Clara River and the town of Fillmore beyond in one swoop.
“From the top of the 17th tee box you can see the whole valley,” said Elkins’ general manager Nick Redmond. “There are really amazing views all over the course.” While the rolling hills and changes in tee/green height can provide a challenge, the course is still accessible to golfers of all skill levels. For those just starting out, ample fairways and forgiving rough will help ease the frustration of chasing the ball around the course. For the more seasoned players, the course still demands strategy and shot placement if you want to go low.
“This is a great little course,” said Elkins regular Jye Lanphere, who was just about to tee off on 17. “The greens are nice and so are the people. Plus they have low rates, which is always nice.”
One emerging twist on golf available at Elkins is foot golf. Players kick a soccer ball and aim for 2-foot-wide holes that are interspersed between the regular holes. “We have a full 18-hole foot golf course that is set up about 40 yards from the regular greens,” said Redmond. “People have a lot of fun trying that out.”
After your round, be sure to grab a burger at the snack bar, which Redmond says, “has been voted best cheeseburger in Ventura County for 25 years.”
For more info on Elkins Ranch, go to elkinsranchgc.com.
Simi Hills Golf Course Simi Valley
Winding through hills and neighborhoods, Simi Hills Golf Course offers players a chance to experience a natural and more urban setting, all in one place. You might find yourself teeing off amongst the homes surrounding part of the course one minute, then sinking your birdie putt the next near a pond under a tree-covered hill.
There’s no shortage of water hazards at Simi. With lakes and ponds around every turn, you might end up passing by a flock of geese or ducks to find your ball in the rough.
Whether walking the course or taking a golf cart, Simi Hills is a player’s course. Bunkers and water will keep golfers on their toes, while protected greens challenge low-shooting players. The course has several tee boxes that help even the playing field for those with varying skill levels.
While much of the course winds through hills with mountain views and an open, natural feel, several of the holes cut through the surrounding neighborhood. Tee boxes and greens seem to be nestled amongst the homes and gardens of the local residents, offering a different yet still visceral counterpart to the hills and trees.
Although not far from town, most of the course is set back from the road, offering a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the highways and shopping centers of the city. Well maintained landscaping and the natural beauty of the mountains can provide a sanctuary for those who don’t have time to leave the city behind altogether.
If you’re just starting out or have been playing for many years, Simi Hills has something to offer everyone.
For more info on Simi Hills Golf Course, log on to simihillsgolf.com.
River Ridge Golf Club Oxnard
With 36 holes spanning two separate courses, River Ridge Golf Club has views, amenities, and a challenging layout that is still accessible to those of lower skill levels.
The Vineyard Course has wide fairways, but boasts more than eight acres of water — most notably, on the signature island hole. The Vineyard Course has been remodeled over the years and now has four holes with incredible views of Ventura County.
“From the tee box on six, you can see the ocean,” said course manager, Otto Kanny, who has been maintaining and operating River Ridge with his family for 25 years. “On a clear day, you can see the Channel Islands.”
The second of the two courses, the Victoria Lakes Course, opened in 2008 and added 18 holes to the party. Featuring bent/poa grass greens and Greg Norman hybrid Bermuda tees and fairways, the Victoria Lakes course has been home to several major events, including the U.S. Senior Open qualifier in 2016. The course may have less water than The Vineyard, but it plays more strategically, even featuring its own take on the infamous Amen Corner at Augusta.
Like Elkins Ranch, River Ridge also offers foot golf for those who want to try something different, and the clubhouse can host events from birthdays to weddings. Between the nines, be sure to grab a tuna melt or club sandwich at the River Ridge Cafe, which offers breakfast, lunch and a full bar for those heading to the 19th green.
For more info on River Ridge Golf Club, head to riverridge-golfclub.com.